In an effort to bolster its customer support, Textron Aviation has been on a path this year to revamp its parts operation and introduce new technology that’s expected to minimize maintenance downtime on its newest Citations and turboprops, the Wichita airframer announced on the eve of NBAA-BACE. Brad Thress, who earlier this year moved from engineering to lead parts, programs, and flight operations as senior v-p , told AIN he is focusing on three priorities: parts availability, pricing, and timely delivery. “I like to say that our priorities are basically the three basic things you need to sell a part,” he added.
To that end, the company has added about $100 million in parts inventory this year, mostly for the categories of parts that are slow-moving. On a scale of A through D—with A representing the fastest-moving part that sells at least once or twice a month—Thress said Textron achieves 98 to 99 percent availability. “But when you get down to the Cs and Ds and even some of the slower-moving Bs, it’s more challenging. So that's where most of that inventory is being added and we've seen those availabilities come up there.”
Exchange and overhaul parts is another area that Textron is focusing on and expects to expand by about $30 million next year. “There’s all kinds of different ways to skin the cat but we’re trying to better serve some of the aging portions of the fleet,” he explained. “And that’s a key element to being successful there.”
Along with increasing parts availability, the company is also placing more emphasis on pricing. It has put together a team of analytics experts to determine if Textron parts are competitive on the open market. What the team found so far is that it had to adjust pricing on a third of the company's active parts range, and it rolled back pricing an average of 11 percent on 77,000 parts, Thress said. But the increase in Textron’s parts volume has “kind of paid for itself,” he said. “It’s been accretive to our total margins and profits in that business.”
In terms of bringing more parts closer to its customers, Textron has expanded its parts facilities at three U.S. service centers, adding 800 sq ft in Teterboro, New Jersey; 1,400 sq ft in Orlando, Florida; and 600 sq ft in Mesa, Arizona. Next month, it will open a 10,000-sq-ft expansion of its parts distribution facility in Dusseldorf, Germany, which will add nearly 35,000 more parts there. Earlier this year, the company opened a new parts facility in Australia.
Outside of the parts arena, Textron is bringing new, high-tech capability to its service business, senior v-p of global customer support Kriya Shortt told AIN. Beginning with its newest Citation, the Longitude, the company will offer three-dimensional, interactive manuals for servicing the type.
“We think, for our technicians, [it] makes them much more efficient,” Shortt explained. “They can zoom in, they can pan and rotate, and they're getting a realistic view of what the aircraft would look like and the systems underneath that before they actually start. So, in the end, it will yield faster troubleshooting because they can go in there, they can start to start thinking through their troubleshooting. Also, we would expect that it will help impact downtimes.”
The interactive manual that works on a computer tablet is an extension of Textron’s 1View system. It also will be offered with the Cessna SkyCourier twin and Denali single-engine turboprops. Textron also will offer the wiring diagram of the Citation Latitude on the in-house designed software. But it won’t be available for any of the company’s legacy jets, she added. “It would be pretty challenging to go backwards.”